Monthly newsletter of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus
In communion of prayer for the 2009 General Chapter
My Dear Confreres,
May Christ, the missionary of the Father, and Daniel Comboni, missionary of Christ, bless us during this year of preparation for the XVII General Chapter.
With fraternal sentiments we thank all our confreres for their brotherly company during the past five years. We would ask everyone to carry on the journey with us and to endeavour to make the General Chapter a time of grace for the mission.
Let us call to mind the theme of the 2009 General Chapter chosen during the Intercapitular Assembly: “From the Plan of Comboni to the plan of the Comboni Missionaries: to re-qualify the mission, formation and government”. The theme includes particular attention to redesigning our manner of being present so as to balance commitments and personnel.
The General Chapter – hope for the Institute
Every General Chapter reconfirms the charism, vocation and the mission of the Institute. The Chapter event is therefore celebrated with profound faith in God, who believes in the Institute and again confirms it in the service of the mission and evangelisation. Consequently, to celebrate a Chapter means looking towards the future with the eyes of God and with hope, a gift of the Spirit, and consecrating oneself unstintingly to the work of God.
In 1866, Comboni, looking to the future, saw the finger of God in his work: “The work I have in my hands is all God’s” (W 3615) he writes and “what I know for certain is that the Plan is God’s will. God wants it so as to prepare further works for his glory. (...) What I know for certain is that a new era of salvation for central Africa will begin” (W 1390). Comboni rests all his trust in God who led him to the heart of Africa. May this same trust help us to serve the Lord with ever-renewed enthusiasm for the mysterious ways of the future.
The General Chapter as an Ecclesial Event
As Comboni also teaches us, the Institute works in communion with the Church for the mission of God. The General Chapter can never, consequently, be anything but an ecclesial event. It is a privileged time of grace and communion with the entire missionary Church and the people to whom we are sent. It is, above all, a time when the Spirit of God invites us to return and root ourselves in the foundation of the Institute: the charism transmitted to us by our Founder. The same Spirit, moreover, reminds us that the charism of an Institute becomes a benefit and a blessing for the whole of the people of God.
Choosing delegates for the General Chapter
The Spirit of Pentecost must guide the elections of the delegates and, in turn, also the coordinators of the Chapter and the next General Council. In fact, it was in the context of Pentecost that the first elective chapter of the Church took place. On that occasion, Peter and the disciples prayed: “Show us, Lord, whom you have chosen” (Acts 1, 24). All elections must be the fruit of reflection, meditation and prayer in order to know the will of God and understand how God wants the Institute to be and what the missionary Church expects from our Institute. All should join in praying: “Who is it, Lord, that you have chosen to be the instrument of your will and your plans?”
My dear confreres, it is obvious that in a Chapter there will always be different views and groupings. There will be no shortage of varying opinions, evaluations and discussions. All this may be and is fruit of the freedom of the Spirit. Let us remember that the Spirit wishes and must be the real protagonist of the 2009 General Chapter. He will create unity by taking “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Romans, Greeks and Arabs” (Acts 2, 10-11) and transforming them into “one heart and one mind”.
May the Spirit of God bless us all.
30 May 2008
Feast of the Sacred Heart
On behalf of the General Council
Fr. Teresino Serra, mccj
The 2009 Renewal Course - Enrolments
The 2008 Comboni renewal Course (Rome) ended with the return from the pilgrimage to Egypt and the Holy Land. It ran from 7 January until 20 May with 15 confreres participating, of whom two were Brothers and thirteen were priests (the course began with fourteen priests but one had to withdraw for reasons of health). All were of one mind in showing their general satisfaction with the way the course was conducted and especially with the deeply enriching month of pilgrimage to Egypt and the Holy Land.
The next Course will run from 7 January, 2009 (arrival day) to 26 May, 2009. Enrolments are now open. Those wishing to participate should, for logistical reasons, apply before the end of September 2008 to Fr. Carmelo Casile (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sc. José Alves Morais (BNE) Huánuco (PE) 03-05-2008
Sc. Humberto Cley Santos de Oliveira (BS) Huánuco (PE) 03-05-2008
Sc. Rafael Gemelli Vigolo (BS) Huánuco (PE) 03-05-2008
Sc. Pinzón Robayo Jaider Hernán (CO) Huánuco (PE) 03-05-2008
Sc. Benavides Orjuela Jorge Alberto (CO) Huánuco (PE) 03-05-2008
Sc. Bernachea Romero Oscar Elías (PE) Huánuco (PE) 03-05-2008
Sc. Agbetiafa Komlan Dzitri (Fabrice-Gv) (T) Cotonou (T) 10-05-2008
Sc. Bamana Kadira (Christophe) (T) Cotonou (T) 10-05-2008
Sc. Badatana Apélété Agnata (Solomon) (T) Cotonou (T) 10-05-2008
Sc. Mortty John Kenneth Kwesi (GH) Cotonou (T) 10-05-2008
Sc. Makoutabra Wenyatiga (Jean) (T) Cotonou (T) 10-05-2008
Sc. Gamende Aubert (CA) Cotonou (T) 10-05-2008
Bro. Kpeze Abali André (CN) Cotonou (T) 10-05-2008
Sc. Arévalo de la Cruz Jorge Alberto (GUA) Sahuayo (M) 10-05-2008
Sc. Castro Castro Luis Manuel (NIC) Sahuayo (M) 10-05-2008
Bro. Sánchez Hidalgo Roger (CR) Sahuayo (M) 10-05-2008
Sc. Olok Denis (U) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Ocaya John Chrysostom (U) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Jjumba James Patrick (U) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. White Felix (MW) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Zulu Donald (Z) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Phiri Samuel Chiyeke (Z) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Kandunda Rabson (Z) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Chilimba Pius Albert Joseph (MW) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Mberere Francis Njuguna (KE) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Gicheru Leonard Mbuthia (KE) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Endrias Shamena Keriba (ET) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Ketema Dagne Tadesse (ET) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Waraga Luciano Ali Simon (KH) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Cirino Ofetek Kitonyo Francis (KH) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Bro. Nyakaana Silver (U) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Bro. Wagbia Paul Levi (SS) Namugongo (U) 10-05-2008
Sc. Kazaku Bosh B. Clément (CN) Pietermaritzburg (SA) 27-04-2008
Sc. Korir John Kipkemoi (KE) Amakuriat (KE) 27-04-2008
Holy Redeemer Guild
June 01 – 15 KE 16 – 30 KH
July 01 – 07 LP 08 – 15 CO 16 – 31 MZ
June - That the Heart of the Missionary Christ may bless the people we serve with the gift of peace, unity and perseverance in their faith. Let us pray.
July - That the love of Christ and of the mission may guide the Comboni Missionary Sisters in their journey of reflection on ‘Consecrated Life as a sign of the Covenant’. Let us pray.
Bangui: Our Lady of Fatima Parish
This year is the fortieth anniversary of the consecration of the church of the parish of Our Lady of Fatima. The celebration took place on Sunday, 18 May 2008. In order to live this moment in depth, a number of events were organised: songs by the sixteen small Christian communities, conferences for youth on education for life and love, films, religious concerts, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, prayers to Our Lady, reading and meditating on the message of Our Lady of Fatima, quizzes, tombola, traditional dances, poetry recitations, etc.
The novelty of this edition consisted in the football tournament between the Small Christian Communities (SCC), organised by the youth. The friendly matches also provided a way for them to meet to hear the Word of God, to get to know each other, and to walk towards the future with Christ, the faithful Friend. The final, played on 17 May, was won by the community of San Pietro.
The climax of the feast was reached with the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, during which 28 people received the sacrament of Confirmation. The Mass, presided by Fr. Yves Gauthier, Vicar General, a man with 58 years of missionary experience in Central Africa, was well participated and lively. Before the end of the Mass, it was announced that the second Parish Forum for the Youth would take place from 27 to 31 October on the theme “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1, 8). From the end of the Mass until lunchtime it was a time for music and rejoycing. The prizes were then presented to the winners.
Not even the heavy rain that fell on Bangui could prevent either the celebration of the Mass or the feast. On the contrary, it was regarded by many as a blessing from above.
The newly-professed scholastic Aubert Gamende, from Ndéle (RCA), was presented to the Christian community. Aubert is getting ready to leave for the Kinshasa scholasticate.
The provincial reports on the visit of Fr. Teresino Serra
The Superior General was met at the airport of Njili on 24 April, on a Thursday evening. The next day he was already at work visiting the parish of Bibwa and then the mass media centre of the province at Lemba. In the evening we were at the Nunciature for the feast of the Pope. Fr. Teresino had the opportunity of meeting all the bishops together as well as the Nuncio and other civil and ecclesiastical dignitaries.
He dedicated Saturday, 26 April, to visiting the international scholasticate at Kintambo.
On Sunday morning, after Mass, we started our journey deep into the country. Our destination: Kisangani.
After the personal encounters, which took us up to noon, we were able to meet together with the group of postulants, a useful preparation for the zonal meeting held on Monday: by the grace of St Daniel Comboni, all the members of the province were present with the exception of Fr. Renato Modonesi (in Italy for his holidays).
On Tuesday 29, Fr. Teresino takes a giant step backwards in the historical memory of the province: we arrived at Isiro, the site of the martyrdom of our confreres in the distant 1964. The pilgrimage was completed on Wednesday with a visit to the shrine of the Congolese martyr Anwarite Nengapeta at the cathedral and to our parish of St. Anne.
The distinctly spiritual part of the visit followed on Thursday morning with the start of the spiritual exercises, due to continue until mid-day on Tuesday, with 22 participants.
Bishop Julien Andavo Mbia of Isiro visited the Superior General during one of his free moments during the exercises. When the retreat ended, Fr Teresino opened the zonal assembly held on Wednesday and Thursday. About thirty representatives shared with him the problematic of our missionary work in four dioceses: Isiro, Wamba, Doruma-Dungu and Bondo.
By this time Fr Teresino had experienced at first hand the atmosphere of prayer, work and friendship of the Comboni group present in the Congo. He may not have fully experienced the economic and social situation in which the people live. This gap was filled by the airlines of the country. On Friday, the day to return to Kinshasa, the announcement was made at the airport: “no aircraft available.” This allowed him to participate, on Pentecost Day, at the confirmations at St. Anne's: almost four hours in church and then lunch with the bishop. In the meantime, I busied myself trying to rearrange the various programmes at Kinshasa, in the hope of reaching there on Tuesday 13.
The waiting began again with contradictory announcements about the flight and the final confirmation that there was nothing before Wednesday. Not even the small private companies MAF, ASF, CAL (Christened Comboni Air Lines), were flying due to fuel shortages. I had to contact Rome to reschedule Fr. Teresino's return flight booked for Saturday 17. We could only hope in Providence which sent us an aircraft of the Cetraca airline from Beni. On it, as it turned out, there was plenty of room. So, early on Thursday morning the unexpected happened and at mid-day we arrived at Beni, taking the south east route instead of that going south west, which would have taken us to Kinshasa. On Friday morning, May 16, the small Cetraca aircraft at last headed towards the west and we reached Kisangani. After stopping for lunch at “Maison Saint Joseph”, presently the seat of the Edith Stein School of philosophy, I went back to the airport to wait for the aircraft of the Hewa Bora airline, expected at 14 hours, local time. It arrived at 15 hours but then had to go to Goma, so we would have to wait. But no! It will not just go to Goma. It will have to go on to Bujumbura in Burundi to take on fuel. Poor, immense Congo, still at the mercy of the small mountainous countries! Someone suggested every passenger should bring a jerry can of kerosene so we could be sure of travelling.
Meanwhile, there was nothing for it but to pass the time chatting until 19.30. It was 22.00 when we finally sat down for a bite in the provincial house at Kingabwa, Kinshasa. Merci na Nzambe.
On Saturday morning, Fr. Teresino attended the regional assembly in Kinshasa while the driver took his luggage to the airport for checking in. He soon came back with the news that the ticket machine was out of order. In the afternoon there was a meeting with the laity at Lemba and then a rush to the airport. Later on I got a text message: “All OK. Thanks for everything. I am just leaving now. Teresino”. In the morning another message arrived: “I am in Paris. The aircraft due to go to Rome had to go to Naples to get some fuel, Teresino.” The kind of stuff one can see on Candid Camera.
Fr. Teresino's Impressions
Fr. Teresino, you have just returned from the Congo. What are your impressions of that country?
In the Congo I met good people with the will to live, who never give up, always on the move, ready to struggle in spite of the disastrous situation of the country. These are people with a sense of their own dignity, people who believe in themselves: no amount of adversity will daunt them!
You went to the Congo mainly to meet the Comboni Missionaries. What are your impressions of them?
The Comboni presence in the Congo is a “real mission” and a difficult one. This is because it is a mission which makes demands and challenges, especially in the north. Everything is difficult: travelling, the lack of roads with no transport system, even for the essentials of everyday life and carrying out programmes of work. The lack of all these things has created something beautiful: the mission of staying put because the missionary loves his people. In the north of the country we Comboni Missionaries are in the right place at the right time. It is evident that the people are the real treasure of the mission. This creates the conviction of belonging to each other: the people belong to the missionary and the missionary to the people.
Visit our website www.comboni.org for the full text of the interview.
Latest news from Duru and the presence of the LRA
The presence of the LRA in the north-east of Congo continues. The soldiers of the LRA are taking prisoners, or rather like slaves for their work, scores of local people, men women and children. They plunder, steal, murder and rape. They act as if they owned the area.
It seems Uganda is happy they are staying in the Congo. In fact, a lorry load of supplies is sent to the LRA every week from Uganda. Who is helping them? The international community seems to be interested in cutting a good hypocritical figure by holding President Museveni of Uganda and General Kony, head of the LRA, to the purely symbolic peace treaty. The rebels are, therefore, continually under psychological pressure. The disturbing truth is that nobody wants to intervene, not even the UN peace keeping force (MONUC).
The situation becomes more dangerous with the passage of time. Who knows how the people may react, as the Congolese taken prisoners by the rebels often manage to escape and tell their people their horrific stories. It will be difficult for those rebel soldiers to return to normal life.
Meeting of former Comboni Missionaries
This is an account of feelings experienced by fifteen former Comboni Missionaries when they met in Via Luigi Lilio. It was a wonderful experience. First of all there was the “Serra” (Greenhouse) effect. Fr. Teresino Serra spoke to us for two hours, reminding us that we are not completely “former” since our heart and our affections are, in a sense, just as they were long ago. As he welcomed us, he also invited us to meet again within those walls.
Despite our grey hairs – those of us who still have hair – the joy of the meeting wiped away the long years and, for a while, we felt we were taken back to the years of our youth, when we were together preparing for the missionary and Comboni way of life.
We were struck by the fact that our Dean, Giovanni Salvadori, was invited to say a word of thanks to the gathering at the start of the Mass. He was deeply moved as we all were. Sincere thanks to the community of Via Luigi Lilio for their welcome and for the beautiful experience.
Brixen-Milland and the House of Solidarity
After the extensive renovation of our house in Brixen-Milland, the next step is to evaluate and take a decision on what to do with the farm yard, the farm buildings and the house of the former seminary at Milland. So far we have had an endless succession of meetings to discuss all kinds of possibilities about it. Moreover, any decision taken would concern a number of other people as well, in particular the members of the "House of Solidarity".
The members of the "House of Solidarity" consist in a number of groups dealing with matters of "only one world" and of justice and peace at large. Although, according to a signed agreement, their use of the building is up, it would seem very harsh to simply move them out, all the more so because until now they have been unable to find an alternative accommodation. We have, then, come to a temporary solution that will allow them to remain in the former seminary building for another twelve months, which suits us well as we also need time to come to a final decision concerning this issue.
Presentation of the Catechism in the Tigrinya language
On 1 May 2008 the official Tigrinya version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was presented to the public in the Hall of Kidane Mehret Cathedral. More than 800 people attended the full day workshop organized for that purpose. Among the guests were three bishops, clergy, many religious sisters and a good number of the faithful.
The book is presented by the Eparches of Eritrea and thus a product and project of the Local Church of Eritrea. During the presentation the translator, Abba Ghirmay Abraha, a Cistercian, explained the various phases and method that he followed. It took him more than one year to complete the work which afterwards was revised by specialists in languages and catechesis.
Besides Mgr. Tesfamariam Menghesteab and the translator, there were also other speakers who presented a few main parts of the book: the creed (Fr. Sebhatleab Ayele Tesemma), the liturgy (Abba Uqbagabir), the 10 commandments (Abba Mebrahtu). At the conclusion of the workshop, Mgr. Menghesteab presented the directives of the Church on how to use the Catechism. After each presentation, interesting and challenging discussions followed, like the role of the youth in the liturgy (modern music vis-à-vis Geez chant) and the preparation of the national Catechism of Eritrea.
Undoubtedly this is a big step forward for the local Church of Eritrea. Taking into consideration the small number of Catholics and the present political situation, it has really been a huge success. The public felt encouraged and buoyant by this ambitious effort.
Cardinal Ivan Dias visit to Ethiopia
During the Ethiopian Millennium Year, which is being celebrated this year, many Christian religious leaders, such as the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Pope of Egypt Shenuda and other dignitaries of various churches and religions, have come to Ethiopia to visit the country and take part in the different religious activities organized by the people.
At the beginning of this month, from 1 to 4 of May, the Catholic Church has also had the privilege and honour to welcome Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples who came, as the special envoy of Pope Benedict XVI, for the National Eucharistic Congress that was held in Addis Ababa.
Cardinal Dias conveyed various messages to the many different groups he met in his short visit, like the greetings of the Pope, the invitation to be people of contemplation, to be people of peace, of joy of the Eucharist. To the bishops he spoke mainly about issues concerning the evangelisying commitment and about the celebrations of the Rites, inviting them to unity in their variety and richness. The Catholic Church has not even one million members out of more than 75 million Ethiopians.
Cardinal Dias was impressed by the sense of renaissance that exists in Ethiopia during the Millennium Year. He came to know that Ethiopians are proud of their faith and of their ancient history of independence as well as the fullness of potentials within it. He also became aware of the problems it is facing, like war and internal unrest, as the rest of the Horn of Africa, poverty and all related issues.
The National Eucharistic Congress’ closing message was about the “Bread of Life”, which should sustain the Catholics during their celebration of the Millennium. He blessed about 5,000 people who represented all the members of the Catholic communities in Ethiopia unable to be present at the celebration.
The handing over of two parishes
In less than three weeks, the Comboni Missionaries of Awasa Vicariate handed over to the Ordinary two parishes which were up to then under their responsibility.
The first one was the parish of Soddu Abala, which used to be part of Qillenso’s mission territory. The handing over was held on 20 April 2008 (Palm Sunday according to the Ethiopian calendar). The bishop, Mgr. Lorenzo Ceresoli, in the presence of Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, the provincial superior, thanked the Comboni Missionaries for what they had done for the parish. In particular he thanked Fr. Pedro Pablo Hernández Jaime, the parish priest, Fr. Esteban Ramón García Reyes and Fr. José Miguel Córdova Alcázar and, through them, all the missionaries who spent part of their life preaching the Gospel in the area. The bishop has put in charge of the mission Fr. Leonardo D’Alessandro, a Fidei Donum priest from Bari (Italy), and Fr. Eliseo Citton, a Comboni Missionary in the process of being incardinated into the Vicariate of Awasa.
The second parish was Arosa Mission, which was handed over to the local Sidamo clergy on 9 May 2008. The handing over was done on a Friday (two days before the parish’s patron feast) by the provincial Fr. Tesfaye. Mgr. Lorenzo Ceresoli again thanked the Comboni Missionaries, and in particular Fr. Giuseppe De Tomaso who was able to complete the construction of a large and beautiful church in time for the handing over. The parish was entrusted to the two diocesan priests who were already living in the parish with Fr. Giuseppe.
Afriradio: the voice of Africa on the web
As from 21 April, by entering the website www.afriradio , it is possible to listen to 24 Afriradio, a 24-hour radio station dedicated entirely to Africa.
Music, information and high quality entertainment are the main items transmitted. In the morning, information is combined with a daily in-depth programme including news. Literature, cinema, economy and sport are also broadcast.
Users may listen to the web radio station 24 hours a day and intervene directly during some programmes by means of e-mail chat and messages, while radio listeners may choose the programmes that interest them.
Afriradio aims at undoing the stereotypes which present Africa as full of disease, wars and poverty by proposing, instead, an image which reflects the multi-faceted nature of a vast and extremely diverse territory. How many know, for instance, that Tanzania banned plastic bags months ago? Or that South Africa is in the forefront of the development of alternative sources of energy?
To give voice to Africa, then, not simply by way of information but also through the participation of Africans living in Italy who are directly involved in the project. Fr. Giuseppe Cavallini, Coordinator of the Comboni Multimedia and Director of the African Museum in Verona, explains: “Afriradio wishes to be, without any pretension whatever, a source of information with an alternative to the media apparatus which promote economic and party political interests and are not interested in providing the public with information which is also a training in criticism. Nigrizia multimedia, in line with the traditional editorial policy of Nigrizia, the voice of the peoples of Africa and the south of the world, wishes to be the mouthpiece of those who believe in a society in which human and evangelical values, such as solidarity, welcoming, intercultural dialogue, interracial encounters and respect for different traditions and religious beliefs, are promoted.
The transformation of Nigrizia began in 1995 with the launch of the website which today boasts an average of 6000 hits per day.
At the same time, the production of informative radio programmes produced through study of the facts, news and testimonies from the south of the world, and distributed by the network Sat2000-In Blu and other local broadcasters throughout Italy, was boosted.
For twelve years, the two activities worked independently of each other: on the one hand, the publication of the monthly magazine and Website of Nigrizia and, on the other hand, the production of radio programmes for the radio.
The fusion of these two activities gave rise, in 2007, to Nigrizia Multimedia (www.nimedia.it), a sector directed by Fr. Fabrizio Colombo who made his debut on the net on 5 November last, integrating the journalistic content of the site of the magazine with both audio and visual material.
Verona: The Feast of the Peoples (Pentecost 2008)
On Sunday 11 May 2008, the Feast of the Peoples was celebrated in Verona. As a reaction to the regretful incidents which took place in the city and which the press release defines as the product of a society closed in clannish and territorial attitudes, the Comboni Missionaries, together with various diocesan associations, sent out a press release in which they underlined the meaning of the feast: the need to start from the feast of the others in order to really decide to begin to recognise all the others who live and work side by side with people of Verona.
To start again from Pentecost, the icon of unity in diversity, with the courage to put behind ourselves our attitudes of fear and exclusion. As missionaries and Christian communities, we are convinced that we must decidedly take the road of living together with differences.
In his report to the diocesan assembly for religious (15 May), Fr. Romeo Ballan, superior of the Mother House, posed the question: “How can we proclaim the Word of God in this environment? The juridical state of being a clandestine immigrant does not automatically amount to being a criminal. They may both go together in certain cases but we must not generalise. On the face and the skin is written the simple human right to survive, both they and their families. Can we, as Christians and religious missionaries, allow by our silence or lack of action, that only the laws of ostracism and exclusion may prevail?
He proposed a common commitment for an agreement of solidarity with and the inclusion and welcoming of those who are different from us. We need greater courage in proposing Christian values as an alternative to those indicated by the politicians and the media. This means that we must see the whole world as our home. We need to be open and welcoming rather than harbour racial or religious prejudices.
Youth united for peace in Kenya
On 27 December 2007 Kenya’s general elections triggered a violent situation in the country that had a negative impact on the young people. The disaffection of the Kenyan people towards the results was evidenced by the armed skirmishes that, crippling the entire country, continued from the eve of the announcement of the results till the month of April. People were killed or maimed; others had to run away from their homes. The youth were directly involved in the violence, given the fact that they are an easy prey to manipulation.
There was, therefore, an urgent need for the Kenyan youth to come together and rescue this beautiful country from collapse, to spread the message of peace, justice and reconciliation. For this reason a forum tagged “Youth united for peace in Kenya” took place on 3 May, 2008 at the Dagoretti grounds, not very far from our provincial house. This was an initiative supported by different associations and various Missionary Institutes in which we Comboni missionaries were deeply and directly involved. Over 2500 youth, mostly from all over Nairobi, took part.
Focussing on ethics and values, the young people expressed their feelings and views of the post-election violence through entertainment, such as sketches, dances, acrobatics and music. Thematic groups, engaged in serious reflection, were guided by motivational speakers, taking the youth through themes such as negative ethnicity, active non-violence, good neighbourliness and being an instrument of peace. There were symbolic moments of prayer, a medical camp where one could freely donate blood, and other such symbolic initiatives, like tree-planting and candle-lighting, all aimed at bringing home a united effort for peace.
Youth from all cultural backgrounds and religious orientations came together and proved to the world that Kenya intends to be against all forms violence. We were meant to exist together and anything contrary to it is wrong and must be got rid of. Young people sat together to exchange and express their thoughts and feelings. There were moments of counselling for those in need of it and also a sharing of the various initiatives for peace in various places around the country.
This event was a source of hope for the Youth in Kenya, as the peace of this country depends on their unity and desire to live in harmony. We hope that the year that started in violence may turn out to be one of peace.
Khartoum: the battle of Omdurman
The attention of the population in Sudan was still on the census, when things suddenly took a different turn.
On the afternoon of Saturday 10 May, 2008, a group of about one thousand soldiers affiliated to Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Darfur with about 150 cars (pick-ups and land cruisers) penetrated deep into the town of Omdurman coming from the West, from the area of Qaria, before clashing with the national armed forces in the areas of the Town Council of Omdurman, Banat, and Umbedda, while trying to find their way towards the Republican Palace, the headquarters of the armed forces, the Radio and TV stations. Another target was the air base of Wadi Sayidna, from which the planes that bombard Darfur take off. The attack happened at around 3.00 P.M on Saturday, May 10. Two hours later the curfew was imposed till 6.00 a.m. of the following day. The airport was closed together with all the bridges connecting the three towns of Khartoum, Khartoum North and Omdurman.
The national forces managed to overrun the attackers and regain control of the situation but only by paying a high price. According to the report of the Minister of Interior, at the end of the operation the casualties were: 23 policemen killed, and 85 injured; 30 nationals killed and 32 injured; 4 military officers killed and three injured; 93 soldiers and 85 civilians killed of whom 2 were Egyptians and two Senegalese. The hospitals received 225 injured people, of whom 90% were regular forces. The attackers suffered about 400 fatalities. The State television showed some prisoners who were said to have confessed that they received training in Chad. According to the same minister, 75 cars of the attackers were destroyed and 68 confiscated, while the regular soldiers only lost one vehicle and 29 Kalashnikov assault rifles.
The population is relieved, but at the same time the sense of insecurity has enormously increased: it had never happened that the war came so close. Maybe this was the objective of the attackers. The leader of the JEM, Khalil Ibrahim, emphatically declared that there can be no security in Khartoum as long as there is no security in Darfur.
The JEM is one of the main groups operating in Darfur against the Central Government. Its zone of influence is in the West of Darfur on the border with Chad, around the town of Zalinji. Its main supporters belong to the Zagawa, the same ethnic group to which Idriss Deby, the president of Chad, belongs.
Some commentators stress the fact that the attack is a repeat of what happened in February in Chad where the Chadian rebels attacked the capital N'Djamena and nearly captured it. It was said at that time that the operation had been done with the help of the regime of Khartoum. Now it is the turn of the Khartoum Government to point the finger at Chad. The first reaction of President Bashir was to break off diplomatic relations with Chad, and hold Chad's President responsible for the attack with all the consequences that they may have.
The atmosphere in Khartoum was tense till Monday night. On Tuesday normality had returned nearly everywhere, except in some areas of Omdurman where the armed forces were still hunting the attackers who might have been in hiding. Also the bridges between Omdurman and the towns of Khartoum and Khartoum North were re-opened to traffic. The curfew was lifted in Khartoum on Sunday, but in Omdurman it was imposed for some days. There have been few cars or people in the streets, even after the curfew was lifted.
In connection with the attack, some political figures were arrested, the most prominent being Hassan Turabi, the Secretary General of the Popular Congress Party (PCP). But they were released 12 hours later. There are rumours of people having been executed at random by the security forces. The newspapers of Wednesday, 14 May, mentioned 17 dead in Umbedda, 5 in Suq Libia, 2 in the Khartoum football stadium. Human Rights Watch reported that the security forces arrested more than 100 people, and Abdel-Wahid al Nur, the leader of a section of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), another group of rebels operating in Darfur, complained that people of Darfur were targeted for the simple fact that they were Darfurians or Zagawa.
The majority of the people have condemned the attack, emphasizing that they do not want war. Many hope and wish that this last event may create pressure on the Government to take more seriously the problem of Darfur and enter into negotiations in order to reach a settlement. The JEM has been clear: we want security in Darfur as a pre-condition to entering negotiations; the Government of Khartoum must stop bombing our people and attacking our villages; only after that we shall be convinced that the Government is serious about negotiating and is sincerely seeking a solution to the conflict.
Will the battle of Omdurman be enough to convince the Government? We sincerely hope so.
Church personnel were not directly involved in these events. The confreres in Omdurman, Fr. Davide Ferraboschi and Fr. Martin Lako, had to remain at home, like the majority of the population. Nevertheless they were able to go every morning to two Sisters’ convents for Mass without much trouble. In Umbedda Janub the security forces entered the priests’ house to look for rebels, as they had spotted one of their cars in the area. Everything ended there. A bullet entered the house of the Sisters of St. Elizabeth in Banat. The Cardinal was stopped at a check spot while he was going to the cathedral for Pentecost Sunday Mass. On Pentecost day many remained barricaded in their homes, so the Cardinal postponed the Pentecost Mass to Friday 16 May.
AFJN Anniversary Celebration
Africa Faith & Justice Network’s 25th Anniversary Celebration and Annual Meeting: Celebrating Africa - Analysis to Action took place in April in Washington, D.C. Fr. Luigi Zanotto, the Comboni representative at AFJN in New York, attended, along with Fr. Peter Ciuciulla from the Comboni Mission Office in Cincinnati, Cindy Browne from the Comboni JPIC office, representatives from the Archdiocesan Mission Office in Cincinnati, and some of the Comboni Missionary Sisters. They had the opportunity to hear Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned, relentless crusader in helping impoverished Africa and in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. He has led the way in calling for complete debt relief for Africa and massive increases in foreign aid.
Another noteworthy presenter was Ishmael Beah who has told his story as a child soldier in Sierra Leone in his book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. The weekend was packed with information, ideas, and challenges to participants, all with a focus on justice for the poor in Africa, St. Daniel’s beloved continent.
Two well-deserved awards for Fr. Maurizio Binaghi
Fr. Maurizio Binaghi recently received the Caritas et Veritas Award from the Dominican University in River Forest (Chicago). Through bestowal of this award, the Dominican community recognizes those who have demonstrated compassionate service and a commitment to Caritas et Veritas through their service in the community. Fr. Maurizio works closely with the Dominican University, which provides the tutors for the Peace Corner tutoring program, and he is a member of their Service Learning Advisory Board. Maurizio also teaches two workshops there on juvenile delinquency and violence prevention in the African American community, using the Peace Corner model.
In May, Fr. Maurizio will be traveling to Italy to receive an award from his own town. The award is given every year to a town citizen who distinguishes himself/herself in social and charitable service in Italy and/or abroad. Fr. Maurizio is being recognized, of course, for his ministry at the Peace Corner in Chicago. Accompanying him will be Daniel, a long time member of the Peace Corner who has grown into being an active participant in helping to carry out organizational responsibilities connected with some of the programs. Daniel is a strong example of the success of the Peace Corner in planting and nurturing “seeds” to fruition. The spirit of St. Daniel, felt so strongly through his words, “Save Africa with Africa,’ can be felt just as strongly in an echo of those words, “Save Chicago with Chicago.”
Religious Professions at Huánuco
On Saturday, 3 May 2008, the feast of the Holy Cross, six Comboni novices made their first religious profession. The ceremony took place in the church of St Peter at Huánuco.
The professions took place during the Eucharistic celebration presided by Mgr. Jaime Rodriguez Salazar, Bishop of Huánuco. Concelebrants included Fr. Rogelio Bustos Juárez, provincial of Perù, Fr. Antonio Villarino Rodríguez, delegate of Colombia, the vice provincial Gustavo Covarrubias Rodríguez of Brasil Nordeste and Fr. Vanderlei Bervian of Brasil do Sul.
Three of the newly-professed come from Brasil: Rafael Gemelli Vigolo, José Alves Morais and Humberto Cley Santos de Oliveira. Two are from Colombia: Jaider Hernán Pinzón Robayo and Jorge Alberto Benavides Orjuela, while Óscar Elías Bernachea Romero was born in Lima and is the only Peruvian of the group. The newly-professed, after a vacation with their families, will begin their study of theology at Lima (Perù) and Sao Paolo (Brasil).
When interviewed after the ceremony, the newly-professed expressed their feelings of joy at having taken this important step on the way leading one day to the priesthood and the mission ad gentes. Three of them wish to work in Africa, two in Asia and one was ready to work as formator in a Comboni house of formation.
Various diocesan priests also took place in the celebration as well as the Comboni Missionaries of Huánuco, Lima, Arequipa and Cerro de Pasco.
Besides these, there was also a group of Comboni Lay Missionaries together with various religious and people from the parish community. In the evening, there was entertainment in the theatre with dances and songs organised by the charismatic youth group of the parish.
Congratulations to these young men who have chosen to follow Our Lord on the path of the religious and missionary life.
Tarma: anniversary of the diocese
The sixth of March, 2008, saw the beginning of the jubilee year of the diocese of Tarma, situated in the central zone of Perù, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of this ecclesiastical jurisdiction, entrusted in 1958 to the Comboni Missionaries (then the German branch).
Mgr. Richard Daniel Alarcón Urrutia, the present bishop of the diocese, prepared a programme of celebrations to help the Christian community to appreciate and be grateful to God for all the gifts granted to this Peruvian diocese during all these years.
Looking to the future, the representatives of all the religious Institutes that have worked for this local Church were called to a solemn celebration on 17 May, in which ten bishops participated, including Mgr. Héctor Miguel Cabrejos OFM, President of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference and about fifty religious and diocesan priests.
The “Manuel Odría Colosseum” at Tarma was filled with representatives of the various ecclesial movements and those of the religious and civil authorities, as well as a large crowd of people, all united in a well prepared and enlivened celebration to thank God for the progress made.
The work of the Comboni Missionaries was acknowledged during the Mass, especially that of our bishops Mgr. Anton Kühner (RIP) and Mgr. Lorenz Unfried (RIP) who led the diocese and the Comboni Missionaries working in Tarma. A commemorative medal was presented together with a certificate and a small gift as a sign of gratitude for the work carried out in the diocese by so many confreres. At present there are five confreres working there, in the communities of Cerro de Pasco and Palca. There they continue to bear witness to our charism among the people of the central sierra.
The bishop proposed two lines of action during the jubilee year. The first consisted in responding to the invitation of the CELAM that met at Aparecida “to be missionary disciples”; the second was to convoke the first Synod of the diocese on the laity and their evangelising mission within a missionary perspective.
We were very pleased to discover that the seed planted by so many of our confreres is bearing fruit in the lives of many people who remember and thank the Lord for our missionary witness, often in difficult conditions such as poverty, emarginalisation and the terrorist violence of the eighties.
We, therefore, implore the abundant blessings of God upon the diocese of Tarma and thank the Comboni Missionaries who worked there for their example of self-giving in fidelity to the mission.
Fiftieth anniversary of the Maia community
To commemorate its fifty years of life, the Comboni community of Maia, in the diocese of Oporto, together with the City Council, organised a programme of activities which took place from 24 April to 4 May 2008.
The commemorations began with a meeting on the theme “The Christian Mission in a globalised World”. Among those who participated were the bishop of Oporto, Mgr. Manuel Clemente, and Fr. Manuel Augusto Lopes Ferreira, the director of Além-Mar and Audácia magazines. The celebrations continued on 26 April with a musical concert in the great auditorium of the Maia Forum. The celebrations programme ended with a missionary photographic exhibition in the Forum gallery, which was open to the public until 4 May.
The community of Maia was founded on 15 October 1958, as a seminary. Soon afterwards it began to cater for missionary animation in the diocese of Oporto. In January 2008, the Comboni Youth Centre was also transferred to Maia.
At the moment, the community is composed of six missionaries involved in the formation of seminarians, missionary animation and youth ministry. The postulancy has three candidates, one for the brotherhood and two for the priesthood.
First National Encounter for Cenacles of Missionary Prayer
“I liked very much the testimonies of the groups and seeing the youth participate in the Cenacles of Missionary Prayer”. Many people spoke in these or similar words about the meeting of the Cenacles of Missionary Prayer (COM), held at Viseu on 1 May, 2008.
More than two hundred people attended the meeting, directed by Fr. Ivo Martins do Vale who presented the following theme for reflection: “How to read, meditate, share and pray the Word of God”. There were present some people connected with the Missionary Prayer of the dioceses of Viseu, Oporto, Aveiro, Coimbra and Lisbon. It is also worth noting the presence of those responsible for missionary animation in the Comboni communities, the Comboni Missionary Sisters, a group of Comboni Lay Missionaries and a representative of the Secular Comboni Missionaries, Ascensão Pereira.
During the meeting, the first at national level, homage was paid to the COM of Viseu which this year celebrates its twentieth anniversary.
The Cenacles of Missionary Prayer, begun at Aveira under the inspiration of Comboni spirituality, were recommended by Pope John Paul II to the Comboni Family on the occasion of the beatification of Comboni. They are present in Europe, French-speaking Africa, Brasil and other South American countries.
Perpetual vows and renewal of vows
On Sunday 27 May 2008, in the parish church of St. Joan of Arc, on whose premises there is also the Comboni Scholasticate of Pietermaritzburg, the scholastic Clément Kazaku Bosh Bébé (Congo) made his perpetual profession. The celebration of the Eucharist was joyfully enlivened by the presence of the local people, including parishioners from St. Martin de Porres of Woodlands, which is looked after by the same parish priest.
The main celebrant was Fr. Giuseppe (Joe) Sandri, the provincial of South Africa. He was assisted by Fr. Jeremias dos Santos Martins, formator and superior of the scholasticate, by Fr. Bernard Josef Riegel, parish priest of the two churches, priests from other Institutes who came with their students who are attending theology together with our scholastics. The Mass was in English and in Zulu. The local choir helped inspire all to participate actively and joyfully in the celebration. In his homily Fr. Joe used the similitude of a chair. As this is robust and steady if it has four legs, so a strong Comboni Missionary must have four characteristics to support his life. These are: A balanced relationship with his family and friends (chastity), total dedication to the people he serves (poverty), love for the confreres in his community and for all the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus in a spirit of reverence for the Rule of Life (obedience) and, finally, being nourished daily by the Eucharist where he is fed by the Word of God and by the Body and Blood of Christ.
After the homily, the rite of perpetual profession of Clément took place, followed by the renewal of vows of scholastic Casimiro Lokwang Kortang from Karamoja (Uganda). The people then prayed for them, for their formators, for their provinces of origin, for South Africa (27 April is Freedom Day, which commemorates the end of Apartheid 14 years ago), for all other Comboni scholastics and for vocations to the priestly, religious and missionary life. At the end of the Eucharist, Clément shared the very interesting journey of his vocation with those present. The day ended with all sharing in an agape prepared by the scholastics and by the generous ladies of the two parishes.
On 1st of May, with only a few friends present, the other eleven scholastics renewed their vows during the community celebration of the Eucharist. Fr. Joe was again the main celebrant and received their profession. This second celebration was more meditative and simple, but still very meaningful. We prayed St. Daniel Comboni that he may continue to inspire these young men who have so generously given themselves to the Lord and to the mission.
Anniversary of the coming of the faith to Karamoja
On 19 April, people representing almost all the parishes of the two dioceses of Karamoja (Moroto and Kotido) attended the celebration in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the coming of the faith to Karamoja. A large stone prepared by Mr. Roberto and the technical team of Matany Hospital was placed on the very spot where exactly 75 years ago Fr. Luigi Molinaro celebrated the first Eucharist attended only by Bro. Enrico Lorandi.
Mgr. Henry Ssentongo blessed the memorial stone in the presence of Sr. Rita Maffi, provincial superior of the Comboni Sisters, Fr. Giuseppe Filippi, provincial superior of the Comboni Missionaries, Mgr. Bernard Phelan, diocesan administrator of Kotido Diocese, representatives of all religious Institutes working in Karamoja and, of course, all the diocesan priests and guests, including the two brother priests of the late Fr. Bernardo Grigiante.
At the conclusion of the blessing of the memorial stone, the crowd walked to the compound of the Church of Kangole for a solemn Eucharist attended by thousands of people, a really huge crowd by Karamoja standard. A Cross, on which were carved the words “75 - Ekapolon kiytak anupit Kosi” (75th anniversary - Lord increase our faith), will travel through all the parishes of the two dioceses during the coming months. It will be an occasion for reawakening, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, the faith in Karamoja. A pictorial display allowed the many visitors to have a brief glimpse at the history of the plantation of the Church in Karamoja, from 19 April 1933 to the present day. The preparation was done by a diocesan committee, led by Fr. Mike Lubega and Sr. Bruna Barolo, the parish communities of Kangole, the Sisters, Priests and Brothers. To them all go our words of appreciation and thanks.
For the last two months the Namugongo Shrine built on the spot where Charles Lwanga was executed and set an example for his followers who were burnt alive a few miles away, has been under repair and renovation in preparation for the feast of the Holy Martyrs of Uganda, on 3 June, 2008. The Shrine has been the natural setting for the first profession of the Comboni Novices who used to stand on that holy ground to vow their missionary and religious commitment to God. This year, with the shrine covered in scaffolding, the first professions took place in the large hall of the nearby Namugongo Secondary School. The place was very recollected and large enough to welcome about 300 invited guests of the Comboni Family who attended the celebration.
Sixteen young men from English-speaking Africa: Ethiopia, Kenya, Khartoum, Malawi, Zambia, South Sudan and Uganda, were offered to God, the Church and the Institute by their parents or their representatives. One by one they stood up before their respective provincial superior to vow their first commitment to the mission as followers of St. Daniel Comboni and as members of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus. Fr. Salvatore Pacifico was the main celebrant and invited the candidates not to rely on themselves but on Jesus, as the branches depend totally on the vine: the mission belongs to God and the missionary either stands by God or he will not stand at all.
At the end of the celebration, words of thanks where spoken by the various speakers, underlining how the success of a vocation depends on the entire community where each one contributes to the formation and preparation of the candidates. Fr. Pierpaolo Monella then informed the public to which scholasticates the newly professed had been assigned. The occasion also served as a public handing over from Fr. Pierpaolo, the outgoing novice master, to Fr. John Peter Alenyo, the newly appointed novice master.
IN PACE CHRISTI
Fr. Peter Taschler (16.11.1921 – 04.05.2008)
Fr. Thomas Ibrahim Riad (30.04.1933 – 17.05.2008)
Fr. Carlo Pasquali (25.01.1925 – 18.05.2008)
Fr. Luigi Denicolò (16.12.1925 – 23.05.2008)
Let us pray for our beloved dead
THE FATHER: Damaso, di Fr. Franco Nascimbene (CO).
THE MOTHERS: of Fr. Oscar Gámez De La Cruz (M); Mercedes, of Fr. Navarro Catalán Ramón (E).
THE BROTHERS: Saturnin, of Fr. Casimir Odjo (FCM); Roberto, of Fr. Giuseppe Garavello (I).
THE SISTER: Kuivé, of Fr. Simon Tsoklo Zissou (CN).
THE COMBONI MISSIONARY SISTERS: Sr. Piermaria Targato; Sr. Luigia Margherita Dal Sacco.
AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT
Renovation work at the Generalate in Via Luigi Lilio, Rome
Due to renovation work being carried out on the north-east wing (Biblioteca section), which will beging in the month of June and last till the end of the year, it will not be possibile to offer hospitality to confreres.
Anyone truly needing accommodation in Via Luigi Lilio during this period is asked to directly contact the new superior of the house, Fr. Livio Tagliaferri.
Thanks for your understating for this temporary situation. We are trying to make the house more welcoming for those who will take part in the next General Chapter.